Article Archive
Against The Tide
National Foam Creates Mobile Submersible Pump System
Vol 21 No 4

Time and tides wait for no man, states a proverb from the days of the sailing ship. Likewise, fire waits for no tide, as firefighters involved in a West Coast training exercise learned much to their chagrin.

Part of the exercise involved establishing a large capacity water flow of 5,000 to 6,000 gpm. Since the water source was the Pacific Ocean, the tides would be an issue, said John Vieweger, a national sales manager for Kidde Fire Fighting, specializing in specialty hose and government acquisitions.

"The firefighters call in and get a maritime report on the elevation of the tides," Vieweger said. "The report stated that it would be high tide at such and such time. Unfortunately, the report gave the tide at the Golden Gate Bridge, not where the firefighters were going to be. Everyone is sitting there with normal pumps that only draft from about 10 feet and wondering 'What are we going to do now?'"

To deal with this special challenge, National Foam created Triton, a mobile submersible pump system for feeding large primary pumps or other fire department apparatus, usually operating from draft with a high volume of water under positive pressure.

Triton is a trailer mounted integrated pumping module capable of pumping 5,500 gpm at 90 feet total dynamic head (40 psi at 1.03 specific gravity). The Triton II system consists of two hydraulically powered, deployable, floating pumps, driven by a hydrostatic pump system mounted on the main trailer. The hydrostatic pump system consists of a Catepillar C-9, 300 HP, diesel engine that drives two variable displacement, hydraulic pumps. The pressurized hydraulic fluid is conveyed to the floating pump motors via 150 feet of hydraulic hose lines.

By utilizing floating pumps as the initial source pumps, the need to pump from draft is eliminated, together with all of the problems and limitations associated with draft pumping. When used to supply water to a trailer mounted high volume pump, placement of the pump no longer must be at the water's edge. The pump can now be located as high as 50 feet above the water source at a distance of 150 feet or, if elevation is little or no factor, as far away as 500 feet.

Triton came about as a variation on another National Foam product, the Neptune Pumping System, which delivers 5,000 gallons per minute and is a modular pumping system that offers municipal and industrial fire departments the ability to quickly deploy and pump water from previously inaccessible locations.

"Several of the refineries said 'Wait a minute, we already have all the pumps that we need,'" Vieweger said. "'What we really have is a problem drafting, so could you put the submersible pump on a separate trailer unit?' Hence, Triton was born."

Triton maximizes large fire fighting pumps output by replacing the need to prime and draft conventionally, he said. It feeds a steady, high volume of water at constant positive pressure directly into the inlet of either the pump, the fire truck or other multiple units, Vieweger told a workshop audience during the recent Industrial Fire World conference.

"We've overcome the problems of challenging access to large volumes of water," he said. "Lift or elevation constraints can be very problematic. The difficult terrain in some tidal areas make positioning of conventional fire pumps difficult."

Depending on a plant or refinery's requirements Triton fits on either one or two trucks or containers. Triton consists of two hydraulically driven submersible pumps rated at 40 pounds per square inch pressure and capable of 2,500 gallons per minute flow. While most pumps are limited to 10 or 20 feet of vertical lift, the Triton is capable of 50 feet of vertical lift with at least 100 feet more horizontal.

"Each pump weighs about 250 to 275 pounds a unit which is easily movable by two people," Vieweger said. The pumps also have large pneumatic tires.

"It's awful nice if you have a nice boat ramp that you can run right off into. Most times you'll have debris, large rocks and other terrain you've got to get around in order to deploy the pumps."

The pumps are surrounded by a stainless steel screen mesh that acts as a strainer, he said. It can take water as low as one foot without creating vortex problems. One hundred and fifty feet of 8-inch flexible flat hose rather than hard suction hose connects the submersible pumps to the floating pump, which then transfers the water to the land, platform or ship-based main fire pump.

To deploy the "fish" as the submersible pumps are called, the preferred low-tech method is to simply drill holes in some three-quarter inch plywood and create a "rock" ramp, Vieweger said.

"You just tie them together and then you deploy them right down the plywood ramp into the water," Vieweger said.

A demonstration two weeks earlier in Houston produced nearly 5,500 gpm, he said. It is possible to place the floating pump as far as 550 feet from the primary pump with a 15-foot elevation and additional lengths of 8-inch hose.

"Your umbilical cord is your limitation here," Vieweger said.

Once the fire operation is complete, two retractable electrically powered cable winches are used to pull the pumps back up the rock ramp to be stored away. As with deployment, two people can handle retrieval.

"I know because I was in waders doing one of them in Houston," Vieweger said.
Additional features include a powered hydraulic hose reel to aid in the deployment, retrieval, and storage of the hydraulic hose; 8-inch Super Aqueduct hose in lengths of 50 to 100 feet (one set of each flowing pump); Victaulic groove connections standard (Storz optional) and storage area for the 8-inch hose and coupling hardware.

The advent of large diameter hose is part of what makes the Triton system possible. For example, what if firefighters wanted to draft 5,000 gpm over a distance of five miles. Assume a pump provides 150 psi discharge pressure with each relay pumper seeing 30 psi residual inlet pressure. Twelve-inch hose would require three such pumps. Using 10-inch hose requires eight pumps. And with 7?-inch hose it would take 38 pumps.

"If you're trying to go long distances with flow it gives you an idea of how the larger Super Aqueduct hose can make a big difference," Vieweger said.


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